Important changes ahead for chartered engineers
19 March 2013 | 0
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
In 2007, the Council of Engineers Ireland approved that the educational standard required of a chartered engineer for those who graduate from 2013 onwards will be an accredited masters degree in engineering or equivalent. New regulations for the registered professional title of chartered engineer will be launched in September 2013, in line with this decision. This details what to expect in the new regulations.
We live in an age where only four of the top ten jobs today existed ten years ago and where the rate of change has fundamentally shifted, so that much of the technical detail engineering students learn today may be out of date by the time they graduate. In Ireland alone, the average life expectancy of our citizens has increased by some 13 years over the last 50 years.
The demand on professional engineers to innovate and deliver non-routine solutions to new and complex problems is greater than ever before. The need for the professional engineer to have the ability, therefore, to research and experiment in a cross-functional team – whilst understanding the true commercial viability of their work in the face of sustainability – is, without doubt, essential to ensure they deliver what society needs from them in the 21st century.
This is essentially what a professional engineer does; they solve problems for the greater good by delivering actual, real solutions for the time they live in. They are visionaries; leaders effecting change. As the professional body for engineers and engineering in Ireland, Engineers Ireland is committed to excellence by driving the highest quality and standards within our profession. In turn, Engineers Ireland is essentially committed to ensuring our members are informed of, and aligned to, an internationally benchmarked best practice competence and ethical framework that meets the needs of society and industry.
The formation of a chartered engineer has always involved two phases: their educational formation and their initial professional development. During this time, the engineer applies the learning outcomes acquired through their education and develops their individual competence to practice as a professional.
The main difference between an accredited bachelor (honours) degree and master’s degree in engineering is the deepened ability of the engineer to research and experiment at the forefront of a chosen field of expertise, using the engineering principles developed in earlier education years. This ability is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but must be recognised as a ‘has to have’ for the professional engineer in these technologically driven times. This is the main driver behind Council’s 2007 decision and the revised regulations due for launch in September.
Since the decision was taken in 2007, Engineers Ireland has considered a number of other questions affecting its members. In 2008, Council approved separating the membership of Engineers Ireland, designated by MIEI, from the educational standard required for a chartered engineer. Following this decision, Engineers Ireland embarked on a review of its membership regulations from 2009 to 2010.
This review was firstly to ensure the continuation of Engineers Ireland’s commitment to quality and standards is applied to assessing candidates from a wider net for admittance to membership. Secondly, this review was to provide clarity and consistency for all members of the engineering profession on how to apply for membership, regardless of discipline or career path.
The main difference between an accredited bachelor (honours) degree and master’s degree in engineering is the deepened ability of the engineer to research and experiment at the forefront of a chosen field of expertise, using the engineering principles developed in earlier education years.
In 2010, the new membership guidelines were approved by Council. In particular, these new guidelines provide a clearer pathway to membership for those with qualifications outside of the traditional engineering degree but whom, through their career paths, are practising engineering professionals. This is especially relevant to the areas of environmental sciences, maths and software and computing.
In 2011, having completed the work on the pathways to membership work commenced on reviewing the regulations for the professional title of chartered engineer.
WHAT WILL CHANGE?
As a member of Engineers Ireland, it is important to be aware of a number of key changes within the new regulations for the registered professional title of chartered engineer. They are, in summary:
1. Revised competences: The regulations will have revised competences for a chartered engineer to include a deepening of skills within the areas of research and experimenting.
2. Assessment stages to the application process: The formation of a chartered engineer will be assessed in a two-step process, as opposed to one step currently. Applicants for the professional title will firstly submit evidence of their Phase 1 Educational Formation at master’s degree level or equivalent. On notification of their successful completion of Phase 1, they may submit evidence of their Phase 2 – Competence Development. This will be fully detailed in the new regulations.
3. Phase 1 – Educational Formation: Those who have completed an accredited master’s degree in engineering will need to submit their qualification for verification. A number of routes will also be detailed in full for those who have completed other educational formations and wish to have it assessed as equivalent to an accredited master’s degree. This will involve the submission of additional documentation; the regulations will detail both the evidence required and the assessment procedure of the equivalent educational formation. This includes details for those who have completed an accredited bachelor (honours) degree in engineering.
There will be four pathway options to provide evidence of educational formation.
4. Phase 2 – Competence Development: The documentation requirements when applying for an assessment of a candidate’s competence development are changing following a review of best practice internationally and feedback from current applicants and peer reviewers. The new requirements involve a new style of writing evidence of competence and will be detailed in full in the new regulations.
5. E-applications: The chartered engineer application process will become an e-process, where applications will be completed and submitted online. Hard copies will be required when the candidate moves to the peer review interview stage.
6. Engineers who graduated pre-2013: If you qualified in 2012 or before from an accredited bachelor of engineering (honours) programme, you hold the educational formation required of a chartered engineer up until 1 January 2021. Under the new regulations, once your qualification has been successfully checked and verified, you will be notified that you have successfully completed your Phase 1 formation and you may proceed to your Phase 2 assessment.
It is important to note that from 1 January 2021, all applicants, regardless of their qualification date, will be required to provide evidence of their achievement of an accredited master’s degree in engineering or equivalent. This includes those who qualified prior to 2013. Therefore, those holding an accredited bachelor (honours) degree, regardless of their graduation date, will be required to provide evidence of their further learning to master’s degree level. This will be defined in full in the new regulations.
7. Existing chartered engineers: As part of their commitment to lifelong learning and the code of conduct as a chartered engineer, it is incumbent on existing chartered engineers to familiarise themselves with the new regulations to fully understand the competences required of them.
8. As an interviewer and assessor: After the launch of the new regulations in September 2013, Engineers Ireland will be embarking on a schedule of briefing sessions to inform all of our peer review interviewers of the changes to the process. All interviewers will be re-briefed in advance of the acceptance of the first applications under the new regulations.
9. Membership of Engineers Ireland: Applicants will be required to be full members of Engineers Ireland at least three months in advance of applying for the professional title of chartered engineer.
The new regulations will be launched in September 2013. It is expected the first applications will be received under the new regulations in the summer of 2014, but this will be confirmed when the new regulations are launched. In the meantime, applications will continue to be accepted under the current regulations for the June 2013 and January 2014 deadlines.
Having completed the initial review of the chartered engineer regulations, Engineers Ireland will soon be commencing a review of the regulations for the professional titles of associate engineer and engineering technician. Further details, plus answers to a number of frequently asked questions regarding the changes, can be accessed here.
Margie McCarthy, CEng FIEI is the membership director of Engineers Ireland. Working closely with the membership boards of Engineers Ireland – the Membership and Qualifications Board and the Board of Examiners – and the registrar, Damien Owens CEng MIEI, Margie has been responsible for delivering the revisions to both pathways to membership of Engineers Ireland and the professional title of chartered engineer. As membership director, Margie is responsible for the delivery of the STEPS programme; the third level and graduate member liaison; membership growth, elections and regulations; and the professional titles of chartered engineer, associate engineer and engineering technician.